Basolateral amygdala Thy1-expressing neurons facilitate the inhibition of contextual fear during consolidation, reconsolidation, and extinction

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Abstract

Disrupted fear inhibition is a characteristic of many anxiety disorders. Investigations into the neural mechanisms responsible for inhibiting fear will improve understanding of the essential circuits involved, and facilitate development of treatments that promote their activity. Within the basolateral amygdala (BLA), Thy1-expressing neuron activity has been characterized by us and others as promoting fear inhibition to discrete fear cues by influencing consolidation of cued fear learning or cued fear extinction. Here, we evaluated how activating BLA Thy1-expressing neurons using DREADDs affected the consolidation, expression, reconsolidation, and extinction of contextual fear. Using an inhibitory avoidance paradigm, our present findings indicate a similar involvement of BLA Thy1-expressing neuron activity in the consolidation and extinction, but not expression, of fear. Importantly, our data also provide the first evidence for involvement of these neurons in inhibiting fear reconsolidation. Therefore, these data enhance our understanding of the roles that Thy1-expressing neurons within the BLA play in inhibiting fear when examining avoidance, in addition to the already established role in Pavlovian fear paradigms. Future investigations should further explore the circuits responsible for these contextual effects modulated by BLA Thy1 neuron activation, and could promulgate development of therapies targeting these neurons and their downstream effectors.

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